The app that broke the Iowa caucus: An inside look

Exclusive: A cybersecurity company got hold of the code for Shadow, the app used in the Iowa caucus, and spoke to CNET about what it found.

Alison DeNisco Rayome Managing Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
Expertise Home Tips, including cooking, cleaning and appliances hacks Credentials
  • National Silver Azbee Award for Impact/Investigative Journalism; National Gold Azbee Award for Online Single Topic Coverage by a Team; National Bronze Azbee Award for Web Feature Series
Alison DeNisco Rayome

Results from Monday's Iowa caucus were delayed for days because of problems with a smartphone app used to tabulate and report results, causing chaos and frustration among campaigns and voters. A reported coding issue caused the app to only report out partial data, Iowa Democratic Chairman Troy Price said in a statement. 

Cybersecurity company Blue Hexagon obtained a copy of the app, created by a company called Shadow, Inc. Blue Hexagon's head of cyberthreat intelligence and operations, Irfan Asrar, spoke with CNET's Dan Patterson about what went wrong and the overarching cybersecurity concerns this presents for the rest of the 2020 election. 

Blue Hexagon is still diagnosing exactly why the app failed. But the final version of the app has several problems within the code, including links to people's personal websites, Asrar said.

"What we believe is, this is an oversight, and an example of the app being rushed into production," he added. 

The larger concern is that the app was so easy to obtain, which means anyone could access the infrastructure supporting it and potentially cause damage, Asrar said. 

Watch the video for the full interview and more insight into the Shadow, Inc. app.

Iowa caucuses

The 2020 Iowa caucus was thrown into confusion when results were delayed because of technology problems with a new app.

Getty Images